IBM creates a COBOL compiler – for Linux on x86

What’s this got to do with Big Blue's hybrid cloud obsession? Cloudifying COBOL ... until you repent and go back to z/OS


IBM has announced a COBOL compiler for Linux on x86.

News of the offering appeared in an announcement that states: "IBM COBOL for Linux on x86 1.1 brings IBM's COBOL compilation technologies and capabilities to the Linux on x86 environment," and describes it as "the latest addition to the IBM COBOL compiler family, which includes Enterprise COBOL for z/OS and COBOL for AIX."

COBOL – the common business-oriented language – has its roots in the 1950s and is synonymous with the mainframe age and difficulties paying down technical debt accrued since a bygone era of computing.

So why is IBM – which is today obsessed with hybrid clouds – bothering to offer a COBOL compiler for Linux on x86?

Because IBM thinks you may want your COBOL apps in a hybrid cloud, albeit the kind of hybrid IBM fancies, which can mean a mix of z/OS, AIX, mainframes, POWER systems and actual public clouds.

COBOL shops have been promised that "minimal customization effort and delivery time are required for strategically deploying COBOL/CICS applications developed for z/OS to Linux on x86 and cloud environments."

The new offering does that by linking to DB2 and IBM's Customer Information Control System so that apps on Linux using x86 can chat with older COBOL apps. Big Blue has also baked in native XML support to further help interoperability, and created a conversion utility that can migrate COBOL source code developed with non-IBM COBOL compilers.

But the announcement also suggests IBM doesn't completely believe this COBOL on x86 Linux caper has a future as it concludes: "This solution also provides organizations with the flexibility to move workloads back to IBM Z should performance and throughput requirements increase, or to share business logic and data with CICS Transaction Server for z/OS."

The new offering requires RHEL 7.8 or later, or Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS, 18.04 LTS, or later. ®

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